ATLANTA - An animal protection group wants a federal review of the University of Georgia after the group obtained a document detailing the use of live dogs, pigs and goats to teach medical procedures that include placing a breathing tube through a hole in the throat.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said participants in UGA's "medical readiness training program" should learn emergency procedures using human simulators rather than anesthetized live animal, which are then euthanized. The organization on Monday asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the process UGA used to approve the animals' use.
UGA officials, meanwhile, say their use of animals conforms to legal and ethical standards.
The university requires a protocol form for any use of animals in research. It is reviewed by an internal committee.
Justin Goodman, director of PETA's laboratory investigations department, said PETA obtained the protocol document using an open records request. He said it contained no information about alternatives to live animals considered by officials.
"All of this incredibly pertinent information was completely left out," Goodman said. "The oversight committee may not have had any idea these animal laboratories have been completely abandoned elsewhere."
However, in a letter released by a spokeswoman, Vice President for Research David Lee said that the university has reviewed the program and is "satisfied that these instructional activities are being performed ethically, in full conformance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations," and the university's standards.
"We appreciate your concern and want to confirm the University's ongoing commitment to the humane and appropriate use of animals in these and all Instructional exercises. This is an obligation we take very seriously. Through these important activities we are training the next generation of physicians, veterinarians, and other professionals, including military medics working on the front lines to save the lives of American soldiers," Lee wrote.
The university's policy on humane care and use of animals encompasses several federal guidelines, including the Animal Welfare Act enforced by the USDA. The policy also refers to a guide for the care and use of lab animals produced by the National Academy of Sciences, which urges researchers to consider alternatives.
In the letter to the USDA, PETA says that nearly all facilities offering a similar "Advanced Trauma Life Support" laboratory for teaching surgical skills use human simulators. The organization says the U.S. Department of Defense also uses alternatives to live animals in some cases.
USDA enforcement options include official warnings or fines. For severe violations of the Animal Welfare Act, inspectors can suspend licenses or revoke licenses, issue cease-and-desist orders or pursue civil penalties.
Goodman said this is the first complaint the organization has filed against UGA. The group previously asked the university to stop using bulldogs as mascots for its football team, following one dog's sudden death in 2009.